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Tree bumble bees around feral honey bee nest

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Joined 2012-07-02

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Today I saw some unusual tree bumblebee behaviour around a feral honey bee nest and I wondered of anyone had seen or heard of anything similar.

The honey bee colony is in a hollow tree in a local public park and has just swarmed.  Today there were something in the order of 30 - 40 tree bumblebees flying around the entrances but not landing.  They were just floating and the guard bees on the honey bee nests weren’t attacking them or showing any aggression towards them.  As it as half way up the tree they may have been using head, leg or other body movements I couldn’t pick up from the ground though.  People said yesterday just after the swarm left several different species of bumblebee were attracted to the nest but today it was only the tree bumblebees.

I was wondering if there might be pheromones associated with honey bee swarming that might attract in the male tree bumblebees and make them think they’ll find female tree bumblebees there.  The other option is that they also have a nest in the tree but I’ve not seen any around it before today.  I’ve not even seen any in the park before today, although there’s plenty around.

Does anyone have any ideas what might be happening?  Its fascinating what ever it is.

Brigitte